Extra Pulp: Sitter Safari

Laura Anders Lee finds that the adage "You've got to kiss a lot of toads to find your prince" loosely applies to babysitters too.

David Vallejo

My single friends say online dating is scary, and as a parent of two sons, I find hiring a caregiver online can be just as creepy. Sure, she looks innocent enough in her profile, but what if I’m putting my two most valuable possessions into the hands of a serial killer?! Call me old-school, old-fashioned or just plain old, but sometimes I long for simpler times when the girl next door babysat.

At 12, inspired by “The Babysitters Club” series, I posted fliers to let neighborhood mothers know I was available. When I had kids, I also looked for babysitters in the neighborhood or relied on friends’ recommendations. Background checks weren’t needed because I knew their mothers.

Then my family moved from small-town Alabama to big-city Orlando, where we had zero connections. Shortly after moving into our small short-term rental, we realized we needed some help, so my husband and I turned to the only place we could think of: the Internet.

As I scrolled through the postings on a couple of popular sitter sites, I discovered a treasure trove of available sitters. These weren’t high school girls down the street; they were professionals. I didn’t need to schedule around prom or worry about stepping on a friend’s toes for calling “their” sitter. But my excitement waned when we started the daunting process of interviewing candidates. Like Halloween night, we didn’t know what we would get when the doorbell rang. Here are a few of the characters we interviewed or invited for a trial run:

The Scantily Clad. Babysitting isn’t a 9 to 5, but this hipster millennial couldn’t care less about her appearance. I wondered how her string bikini would survive the pool with my rambunctious boys and how her cheeky jean shorts would fare on the seesaw.

The Tech Addict. She was playing on her phone when we left and still glued to the screen when we returned, yet she refused to answer our phone calls and only responded to text messages. Our message to her: C U L8R!

The Desperate Housewife: This sitter tried hard, really really hard. The first night she came over to babysit, she washed the sheets on our master bed and rearranged the personal items on our bathroom counter. She crossed a boundary into our private space—and on our first date!

The Slob. Opposite of the over-doer, this college student was just plain lazy. We got home to congealed pizza on the kitchen counter, dirty dishes in the dining room, and toys and DVDs strewn across the floor. In my babysitting days, I put away leftovers, loaded the dishwater and swept the floor. I didn’t use that time to catch up on my favorite show, even if Netflix had been around.

The Disney-Obsessed. We all love Disney, but this 40-something loved Disney. She came over for an interview wearing all Disney clothes, from the Mickey hat on her head to the Minnie Mouse on her Keds. She seemed less interested in the job when we told her it didn’t come with an annual pass.

The Unapologetically Late. This sitter was habitually late, and time after time, she seemed surprised there was traffic on I-4. One day when she’s a mother, I hope she’ll know what it’s like to have her Uber, her dinner reservation or her taxpaying job all waiting on her sitter.

The No-Rules Rebel. The kids watched inappropriate shows and raided the pantry, but worse, they never went to bed! We purposely planned our date night during bedtime to avoid putting our diabolical darlings to bed. When we came home finally relaxed, we didn’t want to see our children running around the house gassed up on sugar.

Miss Moneybags. This unrealistic teenager asked for a raise after only two weeks of working for us. I was already paying 50 percent more than minimum wage as well as providing her with lunch and gas money.

The Quitter. No! I can’t believe this sitter quit on me! I didn’t have a backup for my big meeting Monday. And she dumped me via text message!

The Perfect Fit. Then, finally, we found two amazing nannies. Addison took care of Anders when he broke his arm, did yoga with the boys, and often brought her therapy dog along. Kelly made William a book of his favorite Star Wars characters and did arts-and-crafts projects, which she handily kept in her trunk. They cleaned the kitchen, picked up groceries, and made life with two boys just a bit easier. And for a mother, that’s a dream come true.

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